Robert Flaherty is credited with being the father of the modern documentary after making "Nanook of the North" and classics such as "Man of Aran" and "Louisiana Story", but he is also criticized for engaging in distortion and stereotyping.
Flaherty was born in America in 1884 but became a prospector in Canada. A keen photographer, he turned to cinema making a study of life in the Artic, Nanook of the North (1921), which is seen, quite rightly, as the first documentary - the first film to create a narrative from everyday reality. Flaherty's method was to craft simple but exquisitely pictorial dramas from daily life -- the struggle for survival, the pleasures of family, rites of passage. But in Nanook and his next film Moana (1925), made in Samoa, he set his story in the immediate past (when igloo-building or painful tattooing still went on), not the less romantic present. Stereotyping and distortion did not disturb him. The impulse to the romantic even fixed how he saw Industrial Britain (1931). And when he got to Ireland he was no more willing to grasp underlying social realities. In Man of Aran, he made the islanders, for example, hunt basking shark which they had not done for a generation. He couldn't escape the ...Written by